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When the past is present…


Was the Author of The Three Musketeers a Black Man?

By Henry Louis Gates Jr.,

100 Amazing Facts About the Negro: You may already know the answer, but here’s why it matters
Editor’s note: For those who are wondering about the retro title of this black-history series, please take a moment to learn about historian Joel A. Rogers, author of the 1934 book 100 Amazing Facts About the Negro With Complete Proof, to whom these “amazing facts” are an homage.

Amazing Fact About the Negro No. 83: Which famous 19th-century French author had African ancestry?

When I was a teenager falling in love with books, had anyone told me that three of the most beloved characters in world literature, The Three Musketeers, had sprung from the pen of a black man, I would have said, Get out of town. And when I heard rumors about the author’s ancestry in college, I wondered whether it was more legend than fact, akin to the myth that Beethoven was black. It turns out that this happens to be true: Alexandre Dumas was both a Frenchman and a black man, and retelling his story reinforces the more important point that imagination should not be shackled by skin color.Alexander_Dumas

Recall, earlier in this series we read about Napoleon’s “Black Devil,” Thomas-Alexandre Dumas, the black man born to a French nobleman and a slave who ascended to the highest ranks of the French military during that country’s revolution only to end up in an Italian dungeon and a poor man’s grave. I mentioned then that Gen. Dumas would have the last laugh, thanks to his son, Alexandre Dumas père (meaning “father,” sort of like “senior” in English to distinguish from a “junior” of the same name). And that son would become one of the most influential writers in history.


Dumas’ most popular works, The Count of Monte Cristo and The Three Musketeers, have engrossed readers and actors for years. Yet many literary historians simply chose to erase his racial origins, leaving most readers, until recently, to assume the default: that the author of those works had to be white in order to write so vividly about white people, even though his race was anything but a secret during his own lifetime. In fact, when I mention Dumas and Russian writer Alexander Pushkin in the introductory lecture to a course I teach at Harvard University with Lawrence Bobo, our students appear shocked to learn that both had black ancestry.

Early Years

Alexandre Dumas père was born in Villers-Cotterêts, France, on July 24, 1802, to parents Thomas-Alexandre Dumas and Marie-Louise Laboruet. He was one-quarter black, as Richard Stowe, author of the 1976 biography Alexandre Dumas père, recounts. Dumas’ godfather was supposed to have been Napoleon Bonaparte, but, as Dumas told it, the arrangement was dropped after his father and the future French emperor became enemies. Gen. Dumas died in 1806, yet through his absence, he loomed even larger in his son’s mind. “I adored my father,” Dumas is quoted as saying in Tom Reiss’ 2012 book The Black Count: Glory, Revolution, Betrayal, and the Real Count of Monte Cristo.  “Perhaps, at so early an age, the feeling which today I call love was only a naïve astonishment at that Herculean stature and that gigantic strength I’d seen him display on so many occasions; perhaps it was nothing more than a childish pride and admiration. … But, in spite of all that, even today the memory of my father, in every detail of his body, in every feature of his face, is as present to me as if I had lost him yesterday.”

The general’s death hurt in other ways, for despite his high military rank, his pension was withheld. Dumas, growing up in poverty, also was convinced that the vengeful Napoleon had blocked his admission to any military school or civilian college, according to Reiss.

The Beginnings of a Literary Career

Dumas’ mother, a widow and single parent, “exercised little authority over [her son], rearing him with abundant affection but almost in spite of herself letting him do whatever he wished,” Stowe writes, so that “Dumas at seventeen or eighteen was as learned in the ways of the woods as he was little schooled.” The seeds of Dumas’ literary ambitions were planted around age 16, when he met Adolphe de Leuven, the teenage son of a Swedish nobleman, on vacation in Villers-Cotterêts. Dumas, whose résumé at that point was still thin, as a notary’s apprentice, was captivated by de Leuven’s tales of Parisian life.

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Black teen says teacher told him to say ‘Yes sir, master’


Jabre White said he was stunned and angry when he claims his teacher implied White was his slave and the teacher was his master.

White tells the Des Moines Register’s Lee Rood his teacher Shawn McCurtain asked the class to move downstairs to take an economics final exam.

Jabre White was left speechless when he heard his white teacher telling him to call him "master." His mother Nicholle, found nothing humorous about the statement when the teacher tried to apologize and said that was all it was.

Jabre White was left speechless when he heard his white teacher telling him to call him “master.” His mother Nicholle, found nothing humorous about the statement when the teacher tried to apologize and said that was all it was.

White replied “Yes sir,” but he claims McCurtain replied, “You meant to say ‘Yes sir, master.’”

The incident, which occurred in May, left the college-bound senior considerably hurt and his mother calling for action.

According to the Register’s report, the school district is not denying the incident happened. White’s mother, Nicholle, claims McCurtain called her to apologize and referred to the comment as an attempt to be “humorous.”

It’s unclear what disciplinary action was pursued by the school district, because the information is “confidential under state law.”

A school district spokesman, Phil Roeder, confirmed to the Register McCurtain was still employed at the school.

White is headed to Iowa State next fall. His mother said she plans to “contact the Iowa Civil Rights Commission and the NAACP.”

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Tony Awards 2014 Belong to Audra McDonald

Audra McDonald is overcome with emotion after winning her record-breaking sixth Tony Award at Radio City Music Hall in New York on June 8, 2014.

Audra McDonald is overcome with emotion after winning her record-breaking sixth Tony Award at Radio City Music Hall in New York on June 8, 2014.

BY: ,

Sunday night’s 68th Annual Tony Awards were all about Audra McDonald and James Monroe Iglehart, as one became the most decorated Broadway actress of all time with her win and the other saw his decision to surpass being a pro wrestler and a Harlem Globetrotter pay off with his first Tony win.

McDonald wowed Broadway audiences with her portrayal of Billie Holiday’s struggle with drug and alcohol addiction in Lady Day at Emerson’s Bar & Grill. McDonald had to not only imitate the singer’s alcohol-fueled performances but also had to emulate her signature husky voice.

“I get to the theater at about 6 p.m. or 6:15 p.m. I need that time. I don’t let anybody come in from a half-hour on. I go really deep within myself,” she told the Wall Street Journal about her process to prepare.

Her best lead actress win makes this her sixth Tony surpassing five-time winners Angela Lansbury and the late Julie Harris, CBS News reports.

The 43-year-old actress got her career off to a strong start having won three Tony Awards by the time she was 28 for her performances in CarouselMaster Class, and Ragtime.

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Jeralean Talley, oldest-living American, celebrates 115th birthday

From the Associated Press

INKSTER, Michigan (AP) — The oldest-living American, a member of a select group of the living to have been born in the 19th century, has celebrated her 115th birthday.

Jeralean Talley, 115yrs old

Jeralean Talley, 115 years old

Jeralean Talley, who was born May 23, 1899, celebrated Friday as the second-oldest person in the world, according to a list maintained by the Gerontology Research Group, which tracks the world’s longest-living people. She went fishing last year and still gets around on her own with the help of a walker. On her birthday, Talley is going to the doctor for a checkup, although she says she doesn’t feel sick.
The Michigan resident plans to celebrate with family and friends at a local church on Sunday. Talley’s knees occasionally hurt, her right hand shakes, she has a hard time hearing and her memory comes and goes. Her answer as to why she has lived so long hasn’t changed over the years.
“It’s all in the good Lord’s hands,” Talley told the Detroit Free Press. “There’s nothing I can do about it.”

The Gerontology Research Group verified Talley’s age using census data. Japan resident Misao Okawa, 116, is the world’s oldest person, according to the group. Talley, whose husband died in 1988, is cared for by a 76-year-old daughter who lives with her. Five generations of the family are living in the area, including a great-great-grandson.
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News Police: Teacher had sex with student, knowingly exposed him to HIV


A former Louisiana high school teacher and track coach is accused of having sex with one of his student athletes and knowingly exposing him to HIV.

Derrick Nesby, 37, was arrested by Terreboone Parish sheriff’s deputies last week and charged with felony carnal knowledge of a juvenile and felony intentional exposure to the AIDS virus, reports USA Today.

Derrick Nesby, former Louisiana High School teacher and track coach, was arrested on accusations of having sex with one of his student athletes and exposing him to HIV.

Derrick Nesby, former Louisiana High School teacher and track coach, was arrested on accusations of having sex with one of his student athletes and exposing him to HIV.

Nesby worked at H.L. Bourgeois High School where the 16-year-old boy attended.

According to authorities, a school resource officer was the first to receive complaints about Nesby involved with the student, and the inappropriate contact is believed to have happened during the past school year.

Nesby was only employed by the school for a year.

The former teacher denied allegations by police but was arrested at the school May 28. He was originally held on $500,000 bond, but it was recently increased by a judge to $1,000,000 on Friday.

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White Teacher Reinstated After Blackface Lesson

A Michigan middle school teacher’s suspension for teaching his eighth-grade class about blackface has ended after almost two weeks. Alan Barron returned to his job at Monroe Middle School on Monday, CBS Detroit reports.

Michigan Middle School teacher, Alan Barron, who was initially suspended for doing a blackface lesson with his students was now recently reinstated.

Michigan Middle School teacher, Alan Barron, who was initially suspended for doing a blackface lesson with his students was now recently reinstated.

Barron, 59, was showing his class a video about how white entertainers used to put on blackface to imitate black people. The administrator sitting in on the class stopped the lesson, declaring it racist.

This led parents and students in the community to rally behind the teacher, and their protests appear to have gotten results. Barron was reinstated, and CBS Detroit reports that Monroe Public Schools Superintendent Barry Martin issued a statement on the district’s website, saying that there was a misunderstanding about the approach to the sensitive topic.

“As a result of incorrect information presented within the community, there is a perception that the district was opposed to a teacher providing students with information about the history of racial issues in this country,” the statement read. “This simply is not true and is a misinterpretation of the concern. Monroe Public Schools, following Michigan curriculum, requires and values the teaching of African American history and issues of race as part of our social studies instruction. The teacher in question was placed on paid leave to give the district time to fully consider what occurred in this classroom.”

Barron’s lawyer confirmed to CBS Detroit that the teacher, who plans to retire at the end of this school year after 36 years of teaching, would be back in school. “He looks forward to spending the final three weeks of his career doing what he loves, teaching the young people of Monroe,” C.J. Horkey said in a statement, according to CBS. “He also wants to thank this wonderful community for its support though this difficult situation.”

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Dr. Maya Angelou Funeral Details

By NewsOne Staff,

Maya Angelou died on Wednesday, May 28th.

Maya Angelou died on Wednesday, May 28th.

Funeral services for Dr. Maya Angelou, who died last Wednesday at 86-years-old, will be held Saturday morning on the campus of Wake Forest University, reports WXII.

Heads of states and other dignitaries are expected to attend the private service, but no names have been confirmed.

Prior to her death, Dr. Angelou had been a faculty member at Wake Forest since 1982.

“Dr. Angelou was a national treasure whose life and teachings inspired millions around the world, including countless students, faculty, and staff at Wake Forest, where she served as Reynolds Professor of American Studies since 1982. Our thoughts and prayers are with Dr. Angelou’s family and friends during this difficult time.”

“Maya Angelou has been a towering figure — at Wake Forest and in American culture. She had a profound influence in civil rights and racial reconciliation. We will miss profoundly her lyrical voice and always keen insights,” Wake Forest University President Nathan O. Hatch said on Wednesday.

Angelou’s family will release a formal statement on Monday.

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Donald Sterling Goes to a Black Baptist Church (This Is Not a Joke)

 By ,

The controversial Los Angeles Clippers Clippers owner visits a South LA church with his bodyguards.

Donald Sterling walks into a black church … no, seriously: Donald Sterling the embattled Los Angeles Clippers owner walked into a South Los Angeles church and sat for a two-hour service Sunday, TMZ reports.

It is unclear if Sterling, who arrived at the Praises of Zion Baptist church with bodyguards, came for any other reason than to hear the good word, as he didn’t speak to any members of the church, TMZ reports.

According to sources who spoke with the gossip site, the church visit was planned several days before a sale of the team was announced. TMZ believes that the church visit may be part of a bigger public-apology tour that Sterling and his people have drummed up, but the site also questions why Sterling would go through with the visit if he had nothing to gain.

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Some Good News about Black Males’ Academic Success!

Good News #1: The 9 Biggest Lies About Black Males and Academic Success

By Ivory A. Toldson, PhD,

(Editor’s Note: This is an excerpt from Dr. Toldson’s speech to the inaugural summit of the White House Initiative on Educational Excellence for African Americans: Addressing the Socio-Cultural Factors Impacting the Academic Achievement and Development of African American Males. Toldson is deputy director of White House Initiatives on Historically Black Colleges and Universities.)

blk male student boredIn general, the data presented often paints a bleak picture of the educational experiences of black males in school and the circumstances that frame their experiences. This image is reinforced by the language we too often use when we assess the living conditions of black males in urban areas. Phrases like “crime-ridden,” “broken homes” and “drug-infested” are catch-all phrases that each contribute to a myriad of deficit-oriented viewpoints that, in effect, condemn the families and communities that are entrusted with shaping the lives of black male youth.

In order to promote their academic success and well-being, there is a need to delve deeper in to the data, as well as go beyond the data to understand the various ways in which young black males are surviving, thriving and demonstrating a level of resilience belied by popular statistics. We also have to do a better job of vetting the data to make sure they are true.

StudyingThe following are a few of the greatest lies ever told about black males:

1. There are more black men in prison than in college. Today there are approximately 600,000 more black men in college than in jail, and the best research evidence suggests that the line was never true to begin with. Read more.

2. Black boys can’t read. Before blindly accepting reports that less than a fifth of black boys (and less than half of white boys) can read, learn about the NAEP, take a practice test and learn about diverse learning styles. Read more.

3. Black youth of today are more violent than any generation in history. Today, the rate of violence among black youth is slightly less than it was before 1980 and less than half the rate that it was in the 1990s. Read more.

Discover the other six lies when you read the full story.


Good News #2: Oakland Teen Wows With 5.0 GPA and 2100 SAT Score

By ,

Akintunde Ahmed, academic superstar, says looks can be deceiving.

Akintunde Ahmed, academic superstar, says looks can be deceiving.

Akintunde Ahmad just sees himself as a regular 17-year-old, but the Oakland, Calif., teen has stunned everyone with his 5.0 GPA and 2100 SAT score, which have led to his acceptance at some of the country’s most prestigious universities.

“Like, my whole life, people have been telling me to stay on this path and everything will fall, the cards will fall like you want them to,” Akintunde told KGO-TV, proudly tipping a hat to the Oakland public school system.

Akintunde walks around with pictures documenting his astounding academic achievements saved on his smartphone, not because he wants to show off but because few believe that the teenager, who sports long dreadlocks, has actually reached such lofty heights. He says he is often judged for his appearance….

Akintunde has his heart set on either Yale or Brown and is interested in pursuing premed or prelaw.

Good News #3: Chicago’s Urban Prep Does It Again: 100 Percent College Acceptance


Dr. James Cameron Featured in New Book about Supersurvivors!


SUPERSURVIVORS: The Surprising Link Between Suffering & Success

By David B. Feldman, PhD and Lee Daniel Kravetz

Screen Shot 2014-02-23 at 12.44.42 AM(To order this book so that part of the proceeds supports this museum, click here.)

A New York businesswoman struck by cancer changes her life and becomes an international rock star. A man loses his eyesight and attempts to become the first blind person to row a boat across the Atlantic Ocean….and succeeds. A young basketball player, mangled in a horrible car wreck, rebuilds his body becomes one of Hollywood’s most successful stuntmen.

Five billion people worldwide will survive a trauma in their lives. Most experience inner growth even as their outer lives return to normal. But sometimes, survivors do more than bounce back.

Dr. James Cameron, lynching survivor, addresses US Senators and descendants of lynching victims, Washington DC, 2005.

Dr. James Cameron, lynching survivor, addresses US Senators and descendants of lynching victims, Washington DC, 2005.

Sometimes they bounce forward.

​Supersurvivors: The Surprising Link Between Suffering & Success explores extraordinary accomplishments in the wake of catastrophic trauma to help us understand how ordinary people can achieve extraordinary things.

Supersurvivors offers a bold new vision for understanding and harnessing resilience through the lens of positive psychology. Beginning where resilience ends, Supersurvivors examines the stories and science behind the surprising number of cases in which survivors don’t just grow; they revolutionize their lives. Having survived, these extraordinary individuals radically deviate from their previous life paths.

Nobel peace laureate Desmond Tutu talks during a press conference in Cape Town, South Africa

Nobel peace laureate Desmond Tutu talks during a press conference in Cape Town, South Africa


In so doing, they transform the meaning of their personal tragedies by making them the basis for dramatic and long-term life change, often discovering hidden parts of themselves and contributing to the world in ways they never thought possible.

‘SUPERSURVIVORS: The Surprising Link Between Suffering & Success’ by David B. Feldman, PhD, and Lee Daniel Kravetz, will be published by HarperCollins/Harper Wave in June, 2014. It will be available in hardcover and ebook wherever books are sold.

Order here.


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